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Dating old family photos

Boxes of old photographs can sometimes come down the family with no indication of who the sitters are.With a date, you can narrow the field of possible suspects and even, sometimes put a name to a face as it stares back at you from the past: Look at the format.If you have a toy train collector in your family, show him or her this photo and let's see if they can date the era of this set. (I'll look there for the train, too.) Dating photos based household items is difficult, because families would keep themse items for years. Count The Clues in Your Own Images This image is a good example of how to break a picture down into clues.The rug in this house is well-worn with a big spot near the train track, so the curtains and carpet also could be several years old. Establishing the dates for specific clues will not only help you verify the time frame for a picture, it'll also help you tell a holiday tale.We received a Christmas card from the Llewellyn-Bowen family this week, Laurence, his wife and two daughters dressed up in a 1920s jazz style.It made me think of our feature on postcards in our Christmas issue written by photo dating expert Jayne Shrimpton that included a Christmas postcard from her collection.You may also be able to find a published directory of photographers working in your specific region, such as by Linda A. Ruby (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1999) or this online list of Early St. The setting or backdrop for a photograph may be able to provide clues to location or time period.Early photographs, especially those taken prior to the advent of flash photography in 1884, were often taken outside, to take advantage of natural light.

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If you have trouble identifying the type yourself, a local photographer may be able to help.

In 1841, William Henry Fox Talbot patented the process of salt printing — the first photographic process that used sodium chloride to make photos more light-sensitive.

Salt printing was also the first process to utilize both a negative and a positive allowing photographers to create prints of larger quantities.

Daguerreotypes, for example, were popular from 1839 to about 1870, while cabinet cards were in use from about 1866 to 1906.

Overview of Photograph Types & Techniques Check both the front and the back of the photograph (and its case if it has one) for a photographer's name or imprint.

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